Yogic Living: My Mantra for the Holiday Season
The holiday season is a time of joy and excitement for many. But for others, it can be filled with feelings of stress and overwhelm. Instead of enjoying the experience, some feel so much emphasis on doing more, being more and having more. Whether this feeling of “more” is self-inflicted or pushed upon us by the pressures and expectations of family and friends and life, the end result is that we find ourselves truly tuned out of the present moment and unable to enjoy the spirit of the season.
In addition to our normal day-to-day activities, there is so much more to think about and do at this time of year. And if you have children, you can exponentially increase the amount of time spent preparing for the holidays. I, like many of you, end up feeling so overwhelmed that I don't even know where to begin to find contentment, much less how to allow myself to stop and enjoy the moment.
One aspect of yoga that has really helped me to let go of these feelings of overwhelm is the concept of Santosha, a Sanskrit word for contentment. Santosha is one of the Niyamas (observances) of the Eight Limb Path of Yoga developed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
I recently read an article by Swami Shraddhananda that really brings this concept home for me. He writes “Contentment is a requirement for peace of mind, yet we live in a culture that fosters discontentment. We are bombarded by advertisements that make us feel inadequate and promote a continual grasping for material wealth and sensual experience. We are taught to seek superficial gratification with no regard for future consequences for ourselves or the world. We become attached to things and people to avoid our personal discomfort. We are led to believe that satisfaction of our cravings, as well as our egos, will bring happiness. To the contrary, ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and clinging to the sensual are actually obstacles to our contentment and our prospects for liberation.”
One method that I find very helpful in embracing contentment during those periods of feeling overwhelmed is practicing mantra. Wherever I am or whatever I'm doing (except driving!), I close my eyes and say to myself “I am enough. I do enough. I have enough.” I sit in stillness as I inhale and exhale, mindfully following my breath as I repeat this mantra to myself for as long as needed. By repeating this affirmation, I recognize my place in the universe and my connectedness with others. I realize that the world won't come to an end if I don't achieve everything on my to-do list. It is in this practice that I am actually able to settle into the moment, to change my perspective and begin enjoying myself.
I know I am not unique in these feelings, but for many it's difficult to admit. We want to be stoic and strong and feel like we can be all things to all people, including ourselves. But at some point, we all encounter the feeling of being overwhelmed, whether true or imagined. What we must remember when these feelings arise are the words of Swami Shraddhananda, “Even when we are surrounded by chaos and disharmony, we can return to this feeling and find ourselves back in a place of peace and quietude.”
So during this hectic and hurried holiday season, when that feeling of being overwhelmed and disconnected arises, what will you do to bring you back to contentment? What will your mantra be? If you don't have one, feel free to borrow mine … "I am enough. I do enough. I have enough.”